MIAMI -- Maryland came closer to scratching a prominent name off its football wish list last night, on the eve of what likely will be Mark Duffner's final game as Terps coach.
A day after athletic director Debbie Yow did not deny a report that a representative of Maryland had interviewed Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Davie about replacing Duffner, the Associated Press reported that Davie was a near lock to be hired as the Fighting Irish's successor to Lou Holtz.
The firing of Duffner, who has a five-year record of 20-34 and one year remaining on his contract, appears imminent.
With Davie out of the mix, speculation about a replacement would fall to names such as Kansas' Glen Mason and East Carolina's Steve Logan. But yesterday, the athletic directors at Kansas and East Carolina said Yow had not sought permission to talk to their coaches.
Duffner, meanwhile, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Yale's Carm Cozza. However, a member of Yale's search committee said that Duffner's name did not come up at a meeting of the committee last week.
Interviewed last night at Pro Player Stadium, the site of today's (3: 30 p.m., chs. 2, 7) season finale against No. 3 Florida State, Duffner said he had not been approached about the vacancy at Yale.
"I have not been contacted," Duffner said. "I have nothing to say about that at all. I want to talk about this game."
The Terps have won three of their last four games and are coming off an emotional 13-10 win over Georgia Tech, but it appears to be a case of too little too late.
"Our emotions before and after that game [Georgia Tech], you wondered where they were all season," said Al Wallace, a senior defensive end who is one of Maryland's four captains. "Since I've been here, you wonder where those emotions have been. Why can't we produce that way week in and week out?"
Maryland (5-5) is 12-11 since the start of the 1995 season, but there have been some glaring failures since a 4-0 start last year. Duffner's team came up woefully short in crucial meetings with Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville last year, and again this season in lopsided Atlantic Coast Conference losses to North Carolina State and Clemson.
The N.C. State loss devastated the Terps. It wasn't the first time that Duffner handled his quarterbacks with the next game, instead of the long haul, in mind.
Last year's 4-0 start dissolved into a messy quarterback controversy. Scott Milanovich, the most prolific passer in Terps history, was suspended for four games by the NCAA for gambling, but decided to return when Duffner promised he would start the fifth game.
Brian Cummings and backup Orlando Strozier got most of the practice reps in the preseason and through the first four games. Milanovich played poorly in the fifth game, a 31-3 loss at Georgia Tech.
It was Maryland's first national television appearance since 1989. This year, Duffner went almost exclusively with Cummings in the first two games, against lightly regarded opponents, and Ken Mastrole, a redshirt freshman, wasn't ready when Cummings was knocked out of the ACC opener at Virginia. The first touch pass of his college career was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, the only points the Cavaliers would need in a 21-3 win.
Two weeks later, Cummings still wasn't completely recovered from a slight shoulder separation, but he started against West Virginia. He struggled in a 13-0 loss, aggravated the injury, and wasn't well enough to play against N.C. State the following week.
Mastrole went the distance in that 34-8 loss, as Maryland fell meekly to a Wolfpack team that defeated no one else in its first seven games.
"When Brian went down, it shook everyone up," said sophomore John Feugill, the right tackle. "Ken [Mastrole] did a great job, but he didn't have the leadership yet that BC [Cummings] had. When Ken was in there, we kind of questioned ourselves a little bit. We had been struggling anyway."
The offense faces its toughest test today: the Seminoles are rated second in the nation in yards allowed. Maryland has climbed to No. 20 in that category.
Maryland's top tackler, Eric Barton, a 19-year-old sophomore from Northern Virginia, said the underclassmen don't want to see Duffner go.
"When the younger players talk about it, we like him [Duffner], we like him a lot," Barton said. "I don't think anybody wants him to leave."
Duffner's players have graduated at a rate well above the NCAA average. They talked of his commitment to developing the whole person, not just the football player, but they also admit to disappointment that, for the sixth straight year, Maryland will not be playing in the postseason.
"We definitely expected to go to a bowl game this year," Feugill said.
How has Duffner handled the disappointments?
"He put in a lot of time and effort in this program, and of course you can see his frustration," Wallace said. "I guess we're not producing as he had hoped we would. Things we should know, things we should be doing by now, we're still not doing."
Pub Date: 11/23/96